Historic Food at Gallery Openings!

Recently I attended the opening of “All in a Day’s Work: Industry and Growth in Old Town” at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, fantastically curated by three friends from my MMSt program at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information: Dylan Dammermann, Jennifer Ford, and Alyssa Lake, in collaboration with the Ontario Heritage Trust.

“Working life wasn’t easy in Old Town Toronto. Hours were long, pay was low and workplaces could be dangerous. Between 1870 and 1910, the neighbourhood boomed with factories and workshops, where men, women and children worked. Through family stories, photographs and artifacts, “All in a Day’s Work: Industry and Growth in Old Town”  sheds light on life inside Old Town Toronto’s stores, factories and homes during this time – exploring the industrial transformation of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhood.”

The exhibit is open periodically throughout 2016.

The team behind the exhibit L-R : Beth Hanna, CEO of the Ontario Heritage Trust; Professor Carmen Victor; the three curators Alyssa Lake, Jennifer Ford, and Dylan Dammerman; Professor Matthew Brower; and Sam Wesley , Toronto Region Site Coordinator of the Ontario Heritage Trust. Source.

There was an impressive degree of attention given to how visitors interacted with the material. The exhibit highlighted historic characters, who’s stories could guide you through the exhibit if you chose to follow them. There was a colouring activity of old town print-outs, a photo station filled with historic costumes and props, and of course my FAVOURITE – the historically inspired food.

Months before I had mentioned to Dylan that I had found some of the original Mr Christie cookie recipes while working from “MacDonald was Late for Dinner”. She decided to include them in the exhibit, and ALSO made some awesome Black Cherry Shrub and Ginger Switchel.

Black Cherry Shrub and Ginger Switchel at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Photo: Leah Moncada.

Foods such as these drinks provide such a fantastic venue to illustrate the differences of past foodways and inspire so many questions about history. It is one thing to read about mixed party drinks, it is another thing entirely to choke through a full glass of gingered vinegar! While we find heavy vinegar flavours quite the sucker-punch, 18th and 19th century North America was much more accustomed to the flavour. Vinegar was ubiquitous in household preservatives and pickled foods. Many accounts explain how shrubs and vinegars are the best thirst quenchers for sailors and labourers in hot climates.

The drinks were both modern versions of an old North American staple – the Shrub (aka drinking vinegar). Dylan revealed that the switchel, using molasses and frash grated ginger, was adapted in this recipe. The Black Cherry shrub came from this modern recipe.

Ginger Snaps and Mr Christie’s Jumble Biscuits! Photo: Leah Moncada.

The jumbles and ginger snaps were delicious! But as the signs say, certainly very crunchy. I don’t know enough about the recipes to say whether the originals were this crunchy -perhaps for lasting longer? – of if this is the result of modern ovens. If you know, please comment!


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